For 25 years, fashion designer, Stephanie Alves worked for large companies like Ann Taylor Loft and small companies like The Harari Collection. She even owned a boutique in the East Village of New York City where she sold her own designs. Yet it was only after a family member endured two failed back surgeries and ended up using a wheelchair that she discovered her true calling.
“I went to visit my step-sister after the surgery and she told me that she didn’t even feel like getting dressed. It was just too hard,” recalls Alves. “So I said, ‘What if I just opened up the pants so they were easy to get on?’ After that, I started adapting clothing for other people with disabilities and I realized, ‘This is what I should be doing.’” She started a business called the Able Tailor in 2010.
Over the next several years, Alves tailored clothes for customers with a range of disabilities, altering their clothing according to their individual needs. Finally, she felt she knew enough to design a line of adaptive clothing.
“I already had a small clothing line, so I knew about manufacturing and having my own design business.”
But Alves didn’t want to take on too much too fast. ‘I’m going to focus on one clothing category,’” she said. In order to determine what type of clothing she should offer, Alves asked her customers, ’what is the clothing you most miss wearing?’ Everyone said they most missed wearing [comfortable] jeans.” Alves founded ABL Denim with the help of a kickstarter campaign in 2013.